Discovering New Family
Rudger’s letter closed. “By this time, your siblings have been notified and will be messaging you via Facebook. They are: Tami, JR, Natalie, and Ryan.”
Names and ages were listed. Within an hour, warm and welcoming messages were sent to my mom, who could not sleep until she had responded to all of them. From Tami’s “All I can say is wow—I am excited to get to know you” to JR’s “Wow! I don't know what to say or how to go about this . . . but HI sis?” these messages sent my mom through dizzying waves of emotion. There was a shared sense of shock, palpable wonder, and the tinge of heartache beneath all of it. Natalie wrote, “My parents called me over to their home tonight and had me read your letter. My dad sat in the chair sobbing and couldn’t stop telling me how badly he felt that he didn’t know about you.”
What is perhaps the most amazing to me is how gladly my family has been received by the Warners. Over the course of a few weeks, emails, messages, and pictures were exchanged between my mom and her biological family. On the Sunday of President’s Day weekend 2017, she, my dad, and two of my siblings stopped in St. George to meet not only Rud and Diane but three of my mother’s biological siblings and their kids. Before the meeting, Rud spent the day nervously pacing and my mom stopped to buy a bottle of Tums during the drive to quiet her stomach. But whatever nerves existed at the first introductions relaxed into an afternoon of food, pictures, and stories. On the drive back to their home in California, my mom shared, “Wow. It was overwhelming. It was surreal. It was a whole new family.”
Clockwise from the top: Natalie, Rud, Diane, JR, Ryan, Tami, and Judy.
Meeting her biological family hasn’t changed my mother’s relationship with her adopted parents or family—she knows no one can replace their influence in her life. But this experience has added a branch to our family tree, expanding our family circle.
It’s strange to think that it’s only been a year since these discoveries were made. Many trips have been made between our two families, including a Warner family reunion at Thanksgiving. We wore name tags at the dinner, took family photos, and laughed at the cliché of discovering long-lost cousins.
Our expanding family.
I imagine family reunions like this will be far more frequent on the other side of the veil. Experiencing such welcome and laughter in this life has been the experience of a lifetime. There is nothing like discovering a birthday card from new grandparents in the mail or joking over the shape of toes you share with new uncles. If the word wow was overused in this story—I apologize. It’s the knee-jerk reaction to an entire branch of a family tree being discovered in a city we’ve driven through countless times. It’s the reaction to finding physical similarities in faces we’ve never known until now. But most of all, wow is the reaction to finding family among strangers.
There is something truly miraculous in the discovery of a face and faith that echoes your own. There is something miraculous is my mother’s discovery of a father who never knew she existed and the tender mercy of the Lord in bringing these families, these lives, together. If temples and the work of Elijah are turning the hearts of the children to their fathers, then what better example than her story? The gospel is about the family of Christ—and what I have learned from discovering long-lost family is that we can find new love and family bonds, even when we least expect it.